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This is the second in a series of three articles addressing synchronizing content and channels. You may recall that content needs context and that the context is the customer’s buying journey. In the first article, we explored defining the customer lifecycle and buying journey. In this article, we’ll explain the process of mapping the buying journey. The final article will wrap up the series with a discussion on how content and communication channels must all align within the buying journey.

In the first article, we defined the customer life cycle as “the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.” We introduced a useful framework in the six Cs of the journey: contact, connection, conversation, consideration, consumption, and community.  Now, once you have defined the journey and the associated behaviors, you are ready to employ a process to map it.

Map the Journey and Lifecycle

Process mapping is a valuable technique for creating a common vision and shared language for improving business results. Your customer’s buying journey is a process. As a process, it consists of a series of steps or actions your customers perform as they evaluate their options for a product or service. The fact that this journey is a process means that it ca be mapped. Essentially, you can create a pictorial or graphic representation of the sequence of actions that comprise the process.

There are different approaches to mapping. Regardless of the approach you take, it is important to include input from all internal people in contact with your customers (sales, marketing, customer service, product marketing) as well as the customers themselves.  The mapping process should take into account:

  1. Initial triggers that lead to first contact.
  2. Steps they take (industry reports, product reports and reviews, white papers, demos, etc.) and the conversations (analysts, colleagues, event encounters, call centers, sales people, etc.) they engage in to solve their problem and find a specific solution.
  3. Steps and experiences leading up to their purchase (the RFP, reference calls, pilots, etc.).
  4. Steps associated with the purchase and consumption (the onboarding process, purchasing processes, implementation, invoicing, etc.).
  5. Ongoing experience and reaction to their purchase (problem resolution process, new product offers, community participation opportunities, etc.).

Mapping the customer buying process is a heavy-lifting type of undertaking. It is far worth the effort.  Mapping the process will enable your sales team to have more relevant conversations with prospects because they will be able to “speak to” the stage the customer is in.  It also helps you develop a more systematic approach to demand generation. And of course, pertaining to the purpose of these articles, it provides the framework for developing multi-channel content strategies that facilitate serving the right message to your buyers in the right channel at the right time in their process.

What’s more, marketing research from the Aberdeen Group shows that organizations with a formal program to map and manage buyer and customer journeys experience a 79% higher annual increase in cross-sell and upsell revenue, on average, compared to organizations without such a mapping program. On top of the tactical benefits mentioned above, mapping the buyer’s journey also correlates with enhanced business performance as well.

Once you’ve mapped the process and organized each step into the appropriate stage, you can now begin to synchronize your marketing content with the buying process and lifecycle. Two important benefits of this initiative are improved marketing and sales alignment and a more behaviorally based opportunity qualification process.  In the final article, we’ll bring it all together: matching the content, channels, and the customer buying process.

In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunity to benchmark your marketing alignment and accountability by participating in the 2015 annual MPM Survey.

Laura PattersonAbout Laura Patterson President and Founder, VisionEdge Marketing:

For 20+ years, Laura has been helping CEOs and Marketing Executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of their marketing. She was an early advocate of using marketing data, processes, automation, metrics, and dashboards to link marketing initiatives and investments to business outcomes.  She’s an experience practitioner with an extensive marketing and sales career in the financial services and technology industries. Laura has authored three books on marketing performance management, including the most recent: Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance Driven Marketing Organization. You can see Laura in action online at Marketing Made Simple, MarketingProfs, and Software Advice, or follow her on Twitter via: @LauraVEM.

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